Susan Morrison: Stags are small fry at Festival

Real drag queens will steal stags' thunder in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew Stuart
Real drag queens will steal stags' thunder in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew Stuart
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The behaviour of men about to get married has always puzzled me, even when the stag do was just a couple of blokes sitting in the corner of the pub.

For a man about to be wed, the group would emanate the combined air of the gathering around a condemned highwayman the night before he met the hangman, mixed with the tang of forlorn jealousy.

On the one hand they knew they were losing their drinking buddy, and at the same time, faintly envious that he had managed to bag a real live female of the same species willing to put up with them on a 24/7 basis.

Now, however, the stag do is an event which requires planning on the scale of a D-Day landing. There are even companies who specialise in the stag experience, and far from being a few blokes supping ale for one evening, it’s a full-on weekend, sometimes even a week, with jet skis, karaoke, full-on drinking sessions that can lead to hospitalisation, and fancy dress.

Oh yes, no stag do now is complete without the groom-to-be rocking a frock.

I’m not sure when this became quite the thing, but donning drag seems to be the preferred way young men like to indicate that they are no longer available to the women of Britain.

And oh how they love the attention! They strut down the street, shouting and waving and giving it the big Look At Me, because Barry and his mates, dressed as nurses with inflated bosoms and wobbly in heels, just know that they are the most amazing thing you’ll see that day.

I bet that’s what Barry and his mates thought it would be like, in their collective imagination. And I suppose it might have been, if they had stayed in Bolton. But they were trying to stride along the High Street in Edinburgh during August, right behind two Korean contortionists, a soprano from Sydney dressed as a panda whilst singing that aria from Madame Butterfly with the top note that melts your ear wax, and a real drag queen from San Francisco towering over the mob in skyscraper heels and a wig that needs warning lights for low flying aircraft.

Barry and his team didn’t even have flyers.

I saw them later that day, on the terrace at St Andrew Square. They were wearing jeans. They looked much more comfortable.

Tips to help you get off to a flyer

it used to be my advice that faking an Eastern European language was a cert to turn aside the eager flyering teams. Not so. Since the fall of the Wall and the arrival of easyJet, faking Polish just won’t cut it any more.

So, tips for avoiding the flyer.

One – eye contact. They don’t like it. I don’t just mean glance at them. Stare at them. If need be, follow them across the road, into Scotmid and round the frozen food aisle. This is time consuming, of course, and only deals with one.

Two – demand details about the advertised show. Is it funny/sad/scary? Are animals involved? Are any of them sacrificed? Can you bring your pet rabbit? Does it matter that it’s dead?

Use this line of questioning loudly enough and you’ll steadily notice that a space will clear around you. Not only will you avoid flyers, you will also get about that much quicker.

Going ape over a gorilla suit

Things you only overhear in Edinburgh in August. “Yes, there were only five in the audience, but they really enjoyed it. Well, apart from the four who left.”

“I’m aiming to make the people who come to Angst and Agony uncomfortable. So I’ve taken the seats out.”

“I called Daddy and he said, ‘don’t worry, darling, just hire another sound system, it’s on the credit card’.”

“Does anyone know where I can hire an emergency gorilla suit? I thought I had it sorted, but some stag do turned up and got it instead of me...”

I remember when warm pints and a pack of cheese and onion was enough

I know a bit about the stags of yore, because I used to work in a pub and watched them come and go.

There would be a few of John Major’s famously warm pints. A packet of cheese and onion crisps or two, perhaps even some peanuts for the bolder members of the group. A game of darts might be entered into and perhaps a shot at the pool table. They might get a bit merry, and there might be a few gentle high jinks, but it was basically a low-key affair. I suspect good behaviour was always on the cards because everyone in the pub knew them and the bride had booked our “function suite” (well, the room upstairs) for the wedding bash.

In fact, I once saw the stag do, hen do, wedding reception and the aftermath of the divorce in the same pub. It was like a real-life EastEnders, only with better acting.